Robert Ripley was fascinated with natural disasters like volcanos—so much so that he even tried to buy one!

Ripley’s fame and obligations had stretched him to the breaking point. He was overwhelmed with the amount of work—from cartoon illustrations to radio broadcasts—and instead of giving it a shrug and chugging along, Ripley instead escaped to Cuba for the Christmas holidays.

robert ripley in cuba

It was there, at a New Year’s Eve party in Cuba, that he’d learned about a volcano that had mushroomed up from a cornfield in Mexico.

This farmer Dionisio Pulido was hanging in said cornfield, moving some branches to burn when he saw a vent of  steam open up. Within a matter of moments, the ground swelled 5-feet high, and a fissure began vomiting up lava and ash. A volcano was being born before his very eyes!

Townsfolk thought the devil himself was clawing his way out of hell. In just 24 hours, the volcano had grown 160-feet high. Within weeks it had bulged to a five-story mound of steaming cinders, belching smoke and lava.


After returning from Havana, Ripley began negotiating with the farmer, whose claim to the land turned out to be somewhat vague. Mexican authorities finally told Ripley they weren’t keen on having an American own Mexican land, and the legislature hastily passed a bill making the volcano state property.

ripley cartoon

Earlier in 1944, Italy’s Mount Vesuvius had also erupted, the first such eruption since 1906, inciting Ripley’s obsession with owning his own volcano. When he learned about the one in Mexico, he began telling his buddies that owning it might fill a spiritual void, or that the volcano might contain minerals that would be a good financial investment. He also blabbed that he could have charged admissions and made money off it.

ripley volcano

Dubbed Parícutin, the volcano reached a total height of 1,391 feet. Although most active in its first year, it continued to erupt until March 1952, when the eruption stopped as suddenly as it began. Parícutin was the first volcano scientists could fully document from start to finish. Even today, witnessing the life cycle of a new volcano is incredibly rare.

paricutin eruption ripley volcano

Ripley never did get his hands on a volcano, but Julia and JP—the minds behind the crazy food creations of Hellthy Junk Food—decided to make a spiritual successor to Paricutin for Ripley. Impressed with their grilled cheese and tomato soup creation, we invited them onto an episode of Cool Stuff Strange Things to give them the low-down on Rip’s volcanic aspirations.

hjf ripley's csst

Snacks anyone?

We couldn’t invite two of YouTube’s biggest food stars to Ripley HQ without offering up some unbelievable foods. Here’s some behind the scenes facts on their snacks:

hjf snacks

An idea hatched in China 600 years ago, century eggs are made from preserved duck or quail eggs set in a mixture of clay, ash, quicklime, salt, and rice hulls for a few months. We also included some crickets as an extra-healthy option. They have more iron than beef and contain up to three times as much protein. The bowl their eating out of is called a kapala–it’s made from the top of a real human skull and was used by Tibetan monks to drink bloodwine.

coco de mer

Our popcorn bowl is made from a coco de mer—the world’s largest seed! before being hollowed out, these seeds, weigh about as much as three bowling balls! (Extra BION: According to an Ohio State University study, popcorn is more enjoyable when eaten with chopsticks!)